ShareThis Page

Former Greensburg resident to make Army inroads in arms-support role

| Monday, July 2, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Cicely Verstein, 21, a Mt. Pleasant native who is the  first woman to enlist in an Army combat arms support job.
submitted
Cicely Verstein, 21, a Mt. Pleasant native who is the first woman to enlist in an Army combat arms support job.

As a teenager in Westmoreland County, Cicely Verstein raced go-karts. Soon she will be the first woman in the Army to repair a Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with a cannon, anti-tank missiles and a machine gun.

Verstein, 21, a graduate of Greensburg Central High School who now lives in Morgantown, W.Va., is the first woman in the country to qualify for an Army combat-arms support job. The Army opened six such jobs to women on May 14.

“It's been a month and a half, and we've got one qualified,” said Brian Lepley, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command. “She went into the recruiting office and said, ‘That job is good. I want it.”

Verstein told the Army she always enjoyed working on motors and the job looked like fun. The Army plans a news conference on Tuesday in Morgantown to formally announce her achievement.

Just five years ago, she finished seventh in a race at the Acme Speedway.

The Bradley is considerably bigger than the go-karts she raced. It weighs 33 tons and carries a crew of three plus up to nine infantrymen.

Last year, a review requested by Congress and directed by the Secretary of Defense examined the expansion of roles for women in the armed forces. The Army eventually added the six combat support jobs; the others are multiple-launch rocket system crewmember or fire detection specialist, field artillery firefinder radar operator, M1 Abrams tank system mechanic and artillery mechanic. Women still are not eligible for jobs as infantry, armor, combat engineers and special forces.

“We realized that women have been exposed to fire, most famously with Jessica Lynch,” Lepley said, referring to the American POW from West Virginia who was wounded in an ambush of her convoy in Iraq and was later freed. “It's not predictable warfare anymore.”

Verstein first thought about joining the Army five years ago before the troop drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her interest in the military initially met resistance from her family.

“They're a lot more behind me now than they were then,” she told the military. “They realize I have a better view of what I want to do with my life now than they were then.”

She and her mother, Joyce Dupre, declined to say much publicly before the news conference, but Dupre said, “I'm very proud of her.”

Verstein will go to basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., on Nov. 26 and later go to Fort Benning, Ga.

Bill Zlatos can be reached at bzlatos@tribweb.com or 412-320-7828.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.